By Aaron Cornaby / Outmotoring.com
I must admit, I have never wanted or needed a trailer hitch on my MINI. Come on, a trailer hitch on a MINI? I have another vehicle (okay, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s my wifeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s MINI van) for hauling, carrying bikes and stuff and did not want to use my MINI as a tool. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a performance machine after all. While I thought this was not for me, there are plenty of people out there who need to haul wheels and autocross equipment, carry a few bikes and even haul a motorcycle, small Jet Ski or other stuff. At OutMotoring.com, we already had the MINI Fini line which, during the transition of ownership had ceased production of their Tow Link. We actually were one of the only vendors to get the last batch of Tow Links when the company was partially liquidated. There was and is a huge demand for that accessory which has recently been re-released. When the MINIature Trailer line of products popped up my interest was piqued. My initial reaction was that someone saw a hole in the market and filled it right when MINI Fini was feared extinct. Good timing.
When we needed to haul our MINI store including 2 Ez-Ups, Display racks and product down to the 2006 MINIs on the Dragon I thought it was a good time to test out the MINIature Trailer Hitch,
Tow Wiring Kit, Draw Bar Kit, and Trailer.
After meeting the owner, Brent, I was very impressed across the board. I had actually come to the conclusion that under the circumstances I HAD to put a hitch on my car so I could travel with my wife (the real Boss of Out Motoring) in one car with all our stuff after a last minute change of travel plans. So, Brent lent me his custom yellow 4ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢x4ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ trailer with 2 large storage bins and sweet diamond plate base so it could get some exposure at our store down at the Dragon. It was a perfect match.
The actual hitch is incredibly simple yet functions great. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s one of the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œduhÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â products. As a product designer I was impressed with its simplicity. With the illustrated instructions I quickly (45 minutes or so) buzzed through the install and got the wiring harness all hooked up(another 15 or so minutes). I did snap a few of the rear fender snaps when I needed to access one of the bolts to get the bumper off. No biggie, theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re $.50 or so from the dealer. It sounds scary to have to remove your rear bumper but itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s only a handful of screws. The hitch gets sandwiched between the factory bumper support beam and the chassis and uses factory hardware; 4 bolts. It replaces a steel spacer plate. Nothing fishy, nothing too complex.
The actual Hitch input hangs right behind the rear fog light/blank plate above the exhaust tips on the S and in the same position in the center on the Cooper.
There is no interference with any aftermarket exhausts or the stock system. The hitch is available for both models including the convertible and allows for full functionality of the rear light when the hitch is not being accessed. The light or the trim panel just snaps in and out of place.
This base hitch, which is the true innovation of the line accepts most 1.25ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â square bike racks, trays, trailers and other accessories. The actual part weighs in at just under 9 pounds and has max towing capacity of 1000 pounds (based on official MINI literature) and a maximum tongue weight of 100 pounds. The unit also has a SAE J684 Certification that many states require for use.
The Draw Bar comes in an OE MINI tool bag for easy storage in the boot, looks completely at home opposite the OE Jack and hooks into place using the factory hook locations.
The tow wiring kit uses a Modulite power module to draw only signal from the rear lights and draws power from a fused connection to the battery. The kit comes complete with all wires, clips, and color step-by-step installation instructions.
If youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re not in need of a trailer, you will not need the Draw bar or the Wiring kit. YouÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll only need the actual hitch. From there, itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s up to you. You can opt for their custom painted trailers (matched to your MINI paint code) or Yakima or Thule, etc racks and trays or trailers from various other companies. IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ve seen pictures of this hitch towing a small teardrop camper.
So, about the trip from Columbus down to Tennessee. It was a dream. No issues to note other than looking a bit like the Beverly Hill Billies were coming to town. Pulling the trailer with just a total weight of 450 pounds of stuff (including the trailer weight)felt like I had two friends in the back seat. It tracked well and was much skinnier than the MINI so using the rear view mirrors was as normal. I did feel kinda of stupid driving the Dragon into Fontana with a trailer. I was the only one going 29 MPH max. It was fairly nerve racking but considering the circumstances I felt safe. Killboy.com had a hay day with it as we snaked through the winding road.
Why buy a trailer from them when you can get one elsewhere? Well, where else are you going to get a color matched trailer, with diamond plate and eye hooks?
I must say, I came close to buying the MINI Fini company and all product rights from the previous owners but after considerable thought, I connected friend and Allfab Inc owner Russell with John at MINI Fini who was basically holding the remains of MINI Fini in a storage facility as the rest of the company had disintegrated. It was a perfect match and MINI Fini is back, but now with a new competitor. I worried about adding the MINIature Trailer line, being so ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“investedÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ into the successful resuscitation of MINI Fini and a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“MINI friendÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ of the owner. The two products are considerably different and each has its own merits. WeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll continue to offer both on our site as leading vendors. I hope both lines do well and continue to grow.
So, what are the productÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s merits and what compromises had to be made to make it invisible when not in use?
Cons: Well, if youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re interchanging accessories frequently it is a bit of a challenge to get your hands behind the bumper, push the aluminum heat shield out of the way and reach above the exhaust tips (on the S) to install the cotter pin for the Draw Bar pin. The Cooper has a little more room behind there. Bike racks, trays, etc will have the same challenges. Making the actual Hitch longer would make it an eyesore on the bumper. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s invisible when not in use so if the car is sold the new owner could potentially never know it has a hitch installed. The actual hitch has, to date, not been approved by MINI. If youÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re not towing it should not matter in relation to warranty issues. They have officially not approved the MINI fini Tow Link, even though they offered it for a short time. Welcome to confusion.
Pros: Its invisible when not in use. It uses racks, trays and trailers from Yakima, Thule, Bike Nashbar, etc. (confirm clearance with bumper) that have a standard 1.25ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â square male hook up. The wiring kit was very professional and well done. The drawbar comes with OE MINI bag so it hooks into place just like the factory jack in the boot. Instructions are great.